Florida bill would let renters pay monthly fees instead of security deposits

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – During what’s being called an affordability crisis, state lawmakers are trying to ensure Floridians facing exorbitant rent hikes aren’t priced out of the market when they look for cheaper places to live.

Senate Bill 884 and House Bill 537 would give landlords the option to charge renters a smaller nonrefundable monthly fee instead of requiring a refundable security deposit.

The security deposit renters pay landlords is often equal to one to two months’ rent — and that’s on top of rent they pay to move in. If passed, the legislation would let landlords and tenants choose to forgo a deposit for additional fees each month, or the option to switch back to a full deposit during the terms of a tenant’s lease. However, if a landlord offers this option to a renter, they are required to offer it to all of their tenants.

State Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, cosponsored the bill and says the fee would be determined by the landlord and either party could reject it.

“So this gives them the option, if the landlord agrees and the tenant agrees to use a fee, and we’ve found, as an average across the state, a fee is somewhere between the $25 range per month,” Boyd said. “So instead of paying, you know, maybe $1,000, $1,500, $2,000, this gives them a chance to pay a much lower monthly fee.”

In response to a News4JAX questionnaire, asking for people’s thoughts on the legislation, Veritasias said: “If I’m a landlord, no way I go for that unless the monthly fee I can charge is double what a security deposit would be. And it would be first, last and a security deposit as I need to protect my property.”

Joseph wrote, in part: “It could wind up costing more in the long run and rent is already high enough without all the extra bells, and whistles.”

Boyd says the bill is aimed at assisting low-income families secure housing.

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Lawmakers also say Florida law permits landlords to keep security deposits for 15 days after a tenant has moved out, which may keep a low-income tenant from being able to immediately move into new housing.

The legislation is being met with opposition from state Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville.

“Just imagine you stay there for 10 years, even five years, how many times have you paid the deposit month after month after month,” said Gibson.

Gibson says that while the bill may have good intentions, in her opinion, the Legislature needs more detailed parameters in the proposal.

“There’s no end to it, and there’s no refund whenever you move out, so we have to do something different,” Gibson said. “It’s like I said before, it’s like a poor tax.”

So far, the Senate bill has cleared two committees and is waiting to be heard by a third before the full Senate can take it up.

The House version has made it through the committees, so it’s next stop is the House floor.

What are your thoughts on this legislation? What would you rather choose as a renter?

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.